Beloved St. John’s community,
On this Thanksgiving Day, which is unlike any other most of us have experienced in our lifetimes, what is the root of true gratitude?
In the end, gratitude is experiencing people, blessings, life itself—as a gift. Not as something owed to you, to which you are entitled, or the way things ought to be. But in the outrageous, overwhelming recognition that one can never take or possess anything, not really. The truest act of mindfulness is to see that each and every moment of life is only and ever a gift.
In particular, there are two things for which I cultivate gratitude.
The first is relationships. Not what someone does for you; not the transactional, quid-pro-quo, I-benefit-from-you-because, ego-centric way to understand people. But understanding that relationships offer the opportunity to see the magic that is another human being, breathtaking in their own right. And because other people help us fulfill that fundamental human need for companionship. We are not made to be alone. In South African thinking, this is ubuntu—I am, because we are. In Christian thinking, this is love, which is inherently relational: love of God, love of neighbor. We are held in an invisible vast network of relationships, with all that exists.
The second is, simply, time. Time is the one thing we cannot alter or influence. We cannot add to it nor take away from it. Time is a river in which we are flowing. Each moment is precious, and holds eternity.
This Thanksgiving, I am so grateful for all of you. I am grateful for each person associated with St. John’s. It’s true that I’m grateful for what you do. But I’m much more grateful for your mere presence, for who you are.
This Thanksgiving, when many of us must celebrate alone, if we celebrate at all, let us nevertheless reach out to each other with love, expressing gratitude for life and the time we have had and do have together.
This Thanksgiving, let us risk opening our hearts and being to the joy of encountering one another, even if that encounter must be over email, zoom, or memory. Let us see the eternity in each other and in each moment we are given. Let us give thanks for all that we do have.
May you rest in the peace of the presence of God, in whom we are together, and may you experience with all your being the gift that is time.
Faithfully, in Christ’s love,